Synopsis: A moment during Ben and Adam’s trek west.
Word Count: 720
“Pa?” Little Adam Cartwright looked up at his beloved father, not pausing in his small strides.
“Yes, Adam?” Ben replied with a sigh. At first, he had rejoiced in his four year old son’s inquisitive nature and love of learning. But after two straight hours with a vast supply of never-ending questions coming from the boy, he began to rethink his pleasure.
“We’re lost, ain’t we?”
“Aren’t we,” Ben automatically corrected. “And no, we’re not. I know exactly where we are.” He tugged slightly on their packhorse’s reins to quicken her slacking pace.
“Then where are we?” The question sounded borderline smart-alecky to Ben’s ears. After another sigh, he let the infraction pass unnoticed in fear of having to explain what “smart aleck” meant.
“Well…” Ben looked around him in thought. There were trees as far as the eye could see; hardly any of the mid-afternoon sun showed through the density of the leaves. “We’re somewhere between Boston and California.”
Adam narrowed his dark eyebrows. “That’s not an answer, Pa.”
“So it’s not,” Ben laughed. “But I can tell you we’re not lost. There should be a town in a few more miles.”
The boy nodded, turning back to look at the trees himself. Ben watched as his son put a small skip in his step and slightly swing their joined hands. He heard a hum from the boy, a tune that had been picked up at their last stop.
After a few minutes of silent walking, Ben noticed a yawn from Adam that he had unsuccessfully tried to hide.
“Gee, Pa,” Adam spoke. He resumed his normal walk, but still swung his hand that Ben held. “Don’t you think we should stop for a bit? Dolly looks a bit tired.”
“Oh really?” Ben asked with a playful tone. He looked back at the chestnut mare, seeing nothing wrong with the animal. It was more likely that a certain little boy needed a nap. Ben thought for a moment, looking up at the sky. There were only a few good hours of daylight left, and he had wanted to make it to the next town before dusk. Ben wasn’t exactly in the mood to be sleeping outside when they were so close to a town. He needed to find work as soon as possible.
“I think Dolly’ll be fine for a little while longer, Adam,” Ben said. He noticed the slightest hint of disappointment on Adam’s face, even through sleepy eyelids. “How about if we rest once I figure out exactly where we are?
Adam giggled, covering his mouth with his free hand. “I thought you said we weren’t lost?”
He looked down at the boy with a hard stare. “Adam…” he warned. He hid his amusement, thinking to himself that he had been outsmarted by a four year old. It wasn’t the first time and Ben was sure that it wouldn’t be the last.
“Sorry, Pa,” Adam added quickly, even though he knew that his father wasn’t really mad. His giggles continued for a few moments longer, cut off by a stifled yawn.
“Do you want me to carry you for a while?” Ben asked. He saw Adam gave a sleepy nod, not awake enough to protest. Bending down, Ben lifted the boy up and settled him against his hip in one motion. Adam automatically linked his arms around his father’s neck and settled his head on Ben’s shoulder. He shifted himself slightly to be more comfortable.
He lifted his head and gave Ben a kiss on the cheek. “I love you, Pa,” Adam said, resting back down. He gave a sly grin to himself and looked up at his Pa from under his eyebrows. “Even if you do get lost.” He closed his eyes and within a few moments, Ben could feel his breaths come in a slow and even rhythm.
Ben smiled, resting his own cheek on the boy’s soft dark hair. “I’m not lost, Little One. I know exactly where we are.” He gave Adam a kiss of his own on his forehead and hugged his boy closer. He remained silent for a moment, enjoying the presence of his son.
“We’re on our way home.”